published Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

FDA issues graphic cigarette labels

Poll
Will strong photos depicting risks curb cigarette smoking?

RICHMOND, Va. — Rotting teeth. Diseased lungs. A corpse of a smoker.

Nine new warning labels that feature graphic images that convey the dangers of smoking will be required by the Food and Drug Administration to be on U.S. cigarette packs by 2012. Other images include a man with a tracheotomy smoking and a mother holding a baby with smoking swirling around them. The labels will include phrases like “Smoking can kill you” and “Cigarettes cause cancer.”

The labels, which the FDA released Tuesday, are a part of the most significant change to U.S. cigarette packs in 25 years. They’re aimed at curbing tobacco use, which is responsible for about 443,000 deaths in the U.S. a year.

The labels will take up the top half — both front and back — of a pack of cigarettes and each will include a national quit smoking hotline number. Warning labels also must appear in advertisements and constitute 20 percent of an ad.

“These kind of graphic warning labels strengthen the understanding of people about the health risks of smoking,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We clearly have to renew a national conversation around these issues and enhance awareness.”

Mandates to introduce new graphic warning labels were part of a law passed in 2009 that, for the first time, gave the federal government authority to regulate tobacco, including setting guidelines for marketing and labeling, banning certain products and limiting nicotine. The announcement follows reviews of scientific literature, public comments and results from an FDA-contracted study of 36 labels proposed last November.

The legality of the new labels also is part of a pending federal lawsuit filed by Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Reynolds American Inc., parent company of America’s second-largest cigarette maker, R.J. Reynolds; No. 3 cigarette maker, Greensboro, N.C.-based Lorillard Inc.; and others.

Tobacco makers in the lawsuit have argued the warnings would relegate the companies’ brands to the bottom half of the cigarette packaging, making them “difficult, if not impossible, to see.”

A spokesman for Richmond, Va.-based Altria Group Inc., parent company of the nation’s largest cigarette maker, Philip Morris USA, said the company was looking at the final labels but would not comment further.

In recent years, more than 30 countries or jurisdictions have introduced labels similar to those being introduced by the FDA. The U.S. first mandated the use of warning labels stating “Cigarettes may be hazardous to your health” in 1965. Current warning labels — a small box with black and white text — were put on cigarette packs in the mid-1980s.

The FDA says the new labels will “clearly and effectively convey the health risks of smoking” aimed at encouraging current smokers to quit and discouraging nonsmokers and youth from starting to use cigarettes.

“These labels are frank, honest and powerful depictions of the health risks of smoking,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.

American Cancer Society CEO John R. Seffrin applauded the new labels in a statement, saying they have the potential to “encourage adults to give up their deadly addiction to cigarettes and deter children from starting in the first place.”

The new labels come as the share of Americans who smoke has fallen dramatically since 1970, from nearly 40 percent to about 20 percent. The rate has stalled since about 2004. About 46 million adults in the U.S. smoke cigarettes.

It’s unclear why declines in smoking have stalled. Some experts have cited tobacco company discount coupons on cigarettes or lack of funding for programs to discourage smoking or to help smokers quit.

While it is impossible to say how many people quit because of the labels, various studies suggest the labels do spur people to quit. The new labels offer the opportunity for a pack-a-day smoker to see graphic warnings on the dangers of cigarettes more than 7,000 times per year.

The FDA estimates the new labels will reduce the number of smokers by 213,000 in 2013, with smaller additional reductions through 2031.

Tobacco use costs the U.S. economy nearly $200 billion annually in medical costs and lost productivity, the FDA said. Tobacco companies spend about $12.5 billion annually on cigarette advertising and promotion, according to the latest data from the Federal Trade Commission.

The World Health Organization said in a survey done in countries with graphic warning labels that a majority of smokers noticed the warnings and more than 25 percent said the warnings led them to consider quitting.

While some have voiced concerns over the hard-hitting nature of some of the labels, those concerns should be trumped by the government’s responsibility to warn people about the dangers of smoking, said David Hammond, a health behavior researcher at the University of Waterloo in Canada, who worked with the firm designing the labels for the FDA.

“This isn’t about doing what’s pleasant for people. It’s about fulfilling the government’s mandate if they’re going to allow these things to be sold,” Hammond said. “What’s bothering people is the risk associated with their behavior, not the warnings themselves,”

In places like Canada, Hammond said smokers offended by some of the images on cigarettes packs there started asking for different packs when they received ones with certain gory images, or used a case to cover them up. But smokers said those warnings still had an effect on them.

Canada introduced similar warning labels in 2000. Since then, its smoking rates have declined from about 26 percent to about 20 percent. How much the warnings contributed to the decline is unclear because the country also implemented other tobacco control efforts.

The legality of the new labels also is part of a pending federal lawsuit filed by Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Reynolds American Inc., parent company of America’s second-largest cigarette maker, R.J. Reynolds; No. 3 cigarette maker, Greensboro, N.C.-based Lorillard Inc.; and others.

Tobacco makers in the lawsuit have argued the warnings would relegate the companies’ brands to the bottom half of the cigarette packaging, making them “difficult, if not impossible, to see.”

A spokesman for Richmond, Va.-based Altria Group Inc., parent company of the nation’s largest cigarette maker, Philip Morris USA, said the company was looking at the final labels but would not comment further.

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Online:

New Cigarette Warning Labels: http://1.usa.gov/j2DI5f

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Michael Felberbaum can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/MLFelberbaum

about Associated Press...

The Associated Press

17
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rolando said...

Those cigarette pack holders are about to make a comeback...

June 22, 2011 at 5:57 a.m.
MountainJoe said...

People who are going to smoke are going to smoke. They already know the risks and choose to believe it won't happen to them. Getting the nanny state further involved isn't going to fix anything.

June 22, 2011 at 9:01 a.m.
chatttn said...

Think we need to keep the FDA, but they do need to step it up quite a bit.

June 22, 2011 at 10 a.m.
chatttn said...

Well, if it weren't for them the food we eat would have NO standards. It barely has any now, so just think of how sick we could all possibly get if they didn't help out there. Third world countries come to mind. Just one example are the children dying everyday with simple things like diarrhea, etc. from unclean water. This could all be avoided but unfortunately it is not.

June 22, 2011 at 11:05 a.m.
SeaMonkey said...

but they just won't outlaw it, will they? they herd smokers into designated areas, banish them from buildings and the park. they're demoized, and viewed as even lower than pot smokers... yet, the gov. loves the tax dollars....what a scam. the unborn and smokers are the two most persecuted groups in the u.s.

smoking is a nasty habit...but smokers aren't evil.

it's a killer, yet the gov. won't outlaw it. and you libs wonder why the federal government is not trusted.

June 22, 2011 at 11:27 a.m.
chatttn said...

I see your point, and even agree to an extent. But still it's too bad things aren't set up some either via FDA or your way to protect us more. I've got to admit though, your way does sound better, more clean. The only problem is what keeps your way from going corrupt, just as the government does at times so we may not be any better off in the long run. But it doesn't matter to me how it's done, just needs to be fixed.

June 22, 2011 at 11:31 a.m.
nucanuck said...

The fact that most smokers die a long lingering death becomes a form of tax on society and the health care delivery system in general.

Maybe an increase in nicotine levels would enhance smokers pleasure and shorten their stay on earth.

June 22, 2011 at 1:04 p.m.
jayhay182 said...

What's next? Pictures of obese people on ice cream cartons?

June 22, 2011 at 2:17 p.m.
Leaf said...

The FDA is broken. It's a bureaucratic sinkhole in the road toward innovation. The EU approves drugs 10 years before we get them here, and their trials are just as stringent. We should still have it, but the FDA should be streamlined. Don't get me started on the FAA.

June 22, 2011 at 3:22 p.m.
brokentoe said...

Actually when you overload people, especially young people, with too much negative information in an effort to create fear, you risk desensitizing them to the very thing you wanted to keep them away from. They become immune. They become curious.

My granny is almost 90. She started smoking at the age of 9 or 10. She's healthy as a horse. Still takes of her own affairs. I think there's more going on than cigarettes. Why some people who smoked all their lives seem genetically immune to lung cancer while others who smoked less or not at all catch it should be a case study.

June 22, 2011 at 9:15 p.m.
BlueBierd said...

I recently read somewhere that these labels just make us want to smoke more due to the inherent death wish in humans. I don’t get turned off by the pictures, because I already know what cigarettes do to me, but there is no way to stop.

Gordon - http://www.e-cig-bargains.com

February 6, 2012 at 3:30 a.m.
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